Waiting in Cape May (Again)

As of this morning, we have sailed 1103 miles since leaving Stuart, FL and Mavis and I have hit a major milestone. Together we have sailed 10,000 miles!
This boat has taken us on so many adventures near and far and after all of those incredibly memorable miles up and down the east coast to Florida three times and over to the Bahamas twice and there we were sitting in the C&D Canal waiting for weather to get to New Jersey of all places.
We fully expected to be stuck in Delaware for almost a week because the weather just wasn’t looking conducive for a run down Delaware Bay. Fortunately, a very brief weather window opened up and we decided to jump on it. I knew it wasn’t going to be an ideal passage, but the winds would be light enough and from a good direction long enough for us to make it the 55 miles to Cape May, NJ and finally leave the challenging Delaware Bay in our wake. This really helps set us up for the final offshore leg to the Great South Bay.
Unfortunately, there was a dense fog advisory for visibility of less than 1nm for the whole area for the entire time we would be underway. Also, if for any reason we were more than a few hours late we would be out there in some pretty gnarly conditions as this weather window was slamming shut a few hours after our scheduled arrival and strong, gusty winds and steep choppy waves were coming weather we were safely at the dock or not.
We left the Summit North Marina in Bear, Delaware at first light and made our way into the C&D Canal and out into the Delaware River. Visibility in the early morning was fine as we navigated along, easily spotting ships and tugs and barges miles away. But after a few hours, the fog settled in and visibility went down to a quarter mile or less for most of the day.
Speaking with the container ship Shanghai Dawn by radio we coordinated a pass. I would maintain my speed and course and stay just outside of the shipping channel. The Shanghai Dawn would alter course 10 degrees and we would miss each other by .25 miles. I could see the ship on my AIS display and he could see me — but looking out the windshield we could both see absolutely nothing. It’s very eerie knowing there’s an enormous container ship passing you a quarter of a mile away and never seeing it.
I had the autopilot set and our automatic fog horn was blasting away at a regular interval… My eyes were glued to the empty field in front of me. If anything was out there, I wouldn’t see it until we were right on top of it. This made it hard to do anything. Usually you can see traffic, obstructions, hazards, etc. from quite far away. I can set the autopilot and roam around the boat, read, cook, use the bathroom, watch videos, etc. as long as every minute or so I take good look around… Not so in the fog. As we passed the Ship John Lighthouse, I barely saw it. Clicking on it on my nav screen as we went by I realized we were only .2 miles away. Can you make it out in the photo?
I’ve often said I’ll take restricted visibility over heavy winds and seas any day and I stand by that statement but there’s a certain fatigue that sets in after a few hours out in the void that’s hard to explain. I trust my instruments and am not at all worried about getting lost. It’s the constant fear of something just popping out of the fog in front of me that keeps me on edge.
As we got closer to Cape May, visibility was getting even worse. I was beginning to get concerned about running the Cape May Canal Inlet in this dense fog. Would I even be able to see the sides of the canal? Would I be able to enter the inlet relying just on my GPS? I didn’t have the luxury of bobbing around outside and waiting for the fog to lift because in a few short hours the heavy winds and seas would be here. Thankfully, my worries went away as we got within 5 miles of Cape May and the fog began to rapidly lift. The gray skies turned blue, the sun felt amazing and I could see the beach and the jetties on either side of the inlet. We were escorted in by dolphin as we have been every other time we have visited Cape May.
We’re happy to be tied up here at Utsch’s Marina for a few days waiting for a good weather window to jump offshore just one more time to run the 125 nautical miles from Cape May to the Fire Island Inlet. As of now, a late Saturday morning departure arriving into the Great South Bay Sunday morning looks very good. In the meanwhile, Cape May is a tourist destination with excellent restaurants, shops, and things to do. We’ll stay busy while we’re here.